UNION COUNTY, NJ — High school baseball in New Jersey is getting a much later start this season.
However, we’ll only have to wait two more days to hear the umpire scream, “Play ball!”
The first day of practice is Monday, March 13, but that is for pitchers and catchers only. The rest of the players will have to wait until Thursday, March 16, to begin practice. Scrimmages are not until Thursday, March 23.
Most season openers are scheduled for Monday, April 3, instead of the traditional April 1 opening date.
Coaches usually don’t like getting squeezed for practice time in March, especially going up against bad weather. However, that is the case this year, as the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association provided more of a gap between the winter and spring sports seasons, starting with the winter sports season concluding earlier.
Practice traditionally began on the first Friday in March and for all players. Then the season would start on April 1.
The annual Tip Your Hat Classic at Union High School is scheduled for Tuesday, May 2, and Wednesday, May 3. Union is scheduled to host Cranford High School on Wednesday, May 3, at 4 p.m.
One of the best players in the state resides right here in Union County: Cranford senior third baseman and Georgia Institute of Technology commit Ryan Jaros.
Cranford won the Union County Tournament last year for the first time since 2015, beating Jonathan Dayton High School in the final at Kean University. The Cougars then captured North 2, Group 3 for the first time since 2017, winning the sectional final at Millburn High School, one year after losing the sectional final there to the Millers.
Cranford was defeated in last year’s Group 3 state championship game, played at Veterans Park in Hamilton, by Middletown High School North 5-4. After coming back at Millburn late to win the sectional final 10-8, Cranford ripped North 1, Group 3 champ Ramapo High School 12-1 in the Group 3 semifinals.
Cranford went 25-4 overall last year and won the Union County Conference’s Watchung Division title outright at 10-2.
Jonathan Dayton, at 7-3-1, captured the Mountain Division crown. The Bulldogs produced another winning season, going 16-9-1.
Much-improved Roselle Catholic High School finished better than .500 overall at 9-6 and finished first in the Valley Division standings at 7-1.
The cutoff for the state playoffs is Wednesday, May 17, and the seeding is Friday, May 19. Regular season competition ends Sunday, June 11.
Public School State Tournament
Round 1 – Monday, May 22, higher seed
Round 2 – Thursday, May 25, higher seed
Round 3 – Tuesday, May 30, higher seed
Sectional finals – Friday, June 2, higher seed
State semifinals – Monday, June 5, North 1 and Central Schools
State finals – Saturday, June 10, Veterans Park, Hamilton